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New Funding Creates State-Wide Network to Increase Child Adoptions

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Steve Hicks photo

AUSTIN, Texas — The Center for Societal Impact in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin has received funding to connect more children to families for adoption. Funding the Center and its mission was a legislative priority for Governor Greg Abbott, who recently approved $12 million as part of the 2024-2025 General Appropriations Act.

“As adoptive parents to our daughter, Audrey, Cecilia and I know firsthand the life-changing power of adoption and the amazing joy it brings to a family,” said Gov. Abbott. “I am proud to provide support to the Center for Societal Impact so that more families across Texas can experience the blessing of adopting a child. Every young Texan deserves a loving family, and through this new statewide network, more children will be connected to their forever homes. I thank the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin for the important, selfless work they do for children and families as we work together to create an even brighter future for every Texan.”

The Center for Societal Impact’s program, Heart Galleries of Texas, will utilize the funding to create a network that promotes awareness and offers support for adoptive parent recruitment as well as placement of children and adolescents with families in a forever home. Each day, more than 6,000 children in the Texas foster care system are waiting for adoption. Through a statewide expansion, Heart Galleries of Texas will generate better outcomes for the hardest cases, finding homes for teens, sibling groups, and medically fragile children.

“I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to lead in this invaluable work,” said Allan Cole, dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and founding director for the Center for Societal Impact. “We have created excellent momentum for this Center, which directly serves UT’s strategic vision to become the world’s most impactful public research university. I deeply appreciate the resources provided by Governor Abbott and our Legislature to advance how we help serve children and families in Texas.”

The Center aligns interdisciplinary efforts in research and instruction with partnerships to create positive change in critical social problems including affordable housing and homelessness, aging, disability, community development, foster care and adoption, and challenges and opportunities relating to health and mental health. The organization will continue seeking opportunities to collaborate with institutes and centers in the School of Social Work, as well as with external agency partners, to enhance the public good.

As part of this new opportunity, the Center for Societal Impact welcomes Kori Gough to the team, a celebrated social worker whose longtime work in the foster care space has helped countless children across the state. She will be collaborating alongside Jeanette Davidson, the Center’s inaugural director.

“Our mission is clear – we are designing solutions for our society’s toughest challenges,” Davidson said. “With this funding, we can immediately impact the lives of vulnerable children. Our programs can now reach a wider set of needs and can create and strengthen better lives for Texas families throughout the state.”